No longer just a shell to house cars and sporting gear, the garage is taking on a design life of its own, becoming a space with multiple uses for the whole family — think teenager bedroom and bonus room, souped up man cave or art studio. Designers are implementing some pretty cool features and looks.
“The garage is really the most under utilized space in the home. In the majority of cases, it just ends up being a space to collect junk and squeeze in a car,” says Cecily Woolrich, designer and principal at Woolrich Design Solutions, a custom design, build and renovation company based in Cochrane.
Garages carry hefty weight when it comes to square footage, but rarely are they well finished or organized.
So what’s the first step in transforming all of that potential into usable space?
“The first question that people need to ask themselves is: what am I lacking in my home that I could use the garage for,” suggests Woolrich, who has a background in finance and a passion for design. She’s a knock out at getting to the bottom line and clarifying key issues. She’s a keen innovator on the creative side and has worked in the design and build field for more than 20 years.
“One of the complaints that people have is that they don’t have enough storage in their home. Well, the garage is right there,” she says.
Begin by shifting how you think about the garage — consider it an extension of your home. Maybe it’s time to add a man cave or a kids’ hang out area or a craft or woodworking space, maybe a home office.
And in most cases, adding an extra storey to a garage is much less expensive than building an addition.
“It’s much cheaper square footage because you are not building a foundation,” she says.
There are a few pitfalls to be cautious of though, starting with three biggies: adding services, the state of the garage’s footings and the age of the home.
If you are adding a kitchen or bathroom, pricing can creep up depending on where the services are located.
As well, if a home is more than 20 years old, the entire exterior will usually have to be refinished, not just the new build portion.
In order to support a second storey, the original garage must have proper footings and solid two-inch by six-inch walls. An engineer will be able to suss out the building’s sturdiness within minutes, says Woolrich.
When it comes to the design, pretty much the sky is the limit. Take, for example, a recent garage redo on an acreage in Bearspaw, a renovation that adds a hit of cosmopolitan pizzazz to country living.
“We started with really good bones, but it was a plain shell of a space,” recalls Woolrich, who was the lead on the project.
She reconfigured one bay of the three-car garage to create a stunning showroom to house the owners’ collectable car, complete with glass walls and funky finishings. A second storey, with a living space accessed by a rustic three-inch oak plank open riser staircase with custom metal handrails and stringers. An indoor breezeway Woolrich retrofitted with tongue and groove pine, an element that carries through into the garage space, connects the standalone garage to the main house.
“It’s really important to add lots of texture, just like you would in the house. But remember at the end of the day, it’s still the garage, so you want to keep it durable,” she says.
Six Tips to Add Some Design Sizzle to Your Garage
- Everything in its place. Use the ceiling and the walls to add more storage, getting all of the stuff up and off the floor. Check out thegaragestore.ca for a myriad of ideas, from ceiling hoists to hooks.
- Add plenty of cabinetry and shelving but keep it thin to the wall, so that there is room for the cars.
- Custom wall finishes like tongue and groove wood or corrugated metal add plenty of texture and design oomph while also providing durability and practicality. Consider facing one wall with a custom slat groove feature, perfect for peppering with hooks and organizers. Paint it in a funky colour to add a visual pop.
- Add an innovative coating to the builder grade matte concrete floor. Zip it up with polished concrete or a fun metallic coating or use floor tiles to create a cool pattern and design.
- Compartmentalize using dividers like glass walls. Carve out areas for hobbies like carpentry or for entertaining — add an area rug, toss in a poker table and custom bar cart — and for display — of course everyone wants to admire that 1963 Mustang convertible.
- Instead of putting on an addition, consider going up a storey on the garage to add more living space.
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